The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
American history starts here, at 13th and Locust Streets
Research in a handsome, monumental Reading Room is the main purpose here, but large exhibition cases are carefully installed for the walk-in visitor. Nearly every topic in American history is represented in this century-old, brick and marble building, and the exhibitions reflect the collection’s strengths. The society maintains approximately 560,000 printed books and 19 million manuscript items, including William Penn’s archives.
There are extensive autograph collections of Americans and Europeans; 35,000 prints and maps; 20,000 watercolors and drawings; 250,000 photographs; and thousands of broadsides, sheet music and ephemera. Whatever may be on view, know that you are also in the same building as a printer’s proof of the Declaration of Independence, Martha Washington’s cookbook, muster rolls of the Union Army, and General George Meade’s account of the Battle of Gettysburg.
The American Revolution was fading from memory after nearly 50 years, and Philadelphians preserved the past by saving papers, portraits and even furniture. More than a century and three-quarters later, the massive collection was augmented by a merger with the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies.
Open Tue – Fri
Occasional evening programs feature notable speakers, including historians, authors, or archeologists. Look for listings on their Web site.